Barnwood BlessingsComments (0)
Photo: Kate and Kelley Jensen working on some custom dog bowls in their shop. (Photo credit: Curtis Jensen)
Getting to work alongside her dad Kelley every day is something Kate Jensen truly treasures. The father-daughter team run R.A.W. Restorations, a successful business in Salt Lake City, Utah, tearing down old forgotten barns and creating everything from stunning wall art to furniture to floors with the vintage wood and metal.
When Kate was growing up, Kelley was a brick/block mason. “He built everything from our homes and dressers to flooring and tables. He’s always been extremely talented with woodworking and building anything you can imagine,” she said. “When I was a little girl, I used to watch him take pieces of discarded barnwood to his ‘hut’ and magically transform them into my mom’s favorite pieces of reclaimed furniture.” That was 30 years ago. Today his hut has been upgraded to a woodworking warehouse, and Kate doesn’t just watch anymore.
Kate came to the business after an 18-year detour in the corporate world, working in accounting and mortgage jobs in Newport Beach, California. “I got tired of sitting at a desk and although I was good at my job and had a great life at the beach, it just wasn’t fulfilling to me,” she said. “I decided to make a change and move home to Utah.”
She started building furniture, walls and anything she could think of out of barnwood that she and her father had from a barn they had dismantled. “My first mountain art piece was actually a request from a client whose logo had mountains on it. I was asked to make a piece for their chiropractic office and had no idea it would be the beginning of this!”
Photos: Some of Kate’s mountain art pieces, which is one of her signature looks.
Neutral colors, yet so much character in this custom art
All of the colors and textures come together in this client's kitchen
This mountain piece fits in perfectly with this client's home
For the last two and a half years, the business has kept the duo busy disassembling barns and salvaging as much as they can to later create art and furnishings with vintage materials. Where did the name come from? The logo features a set of longhorns with the abbreviation spelled out - “Rustic Aged Wood.” Kate explains, “I feel like the word ‘raw’ represents so many parts of what we do and the elements we work with. Most of the wood we obtain is in a super raw form from being out in the weather for decades (or over a century!). Sometimes we take it a step further by stripping it of any old paint, stain or nails that are left, but more often than not, we use it as it is with all of its raw imperfections intact. Restorations is the perfect other half of our name as we are giving old materials and wood a new life.”
At each new location, Kelley and Kate assess the condition of the barn by doing a walk-through to see what parts are structurally sound, deciding what is worth salvaging, and making a game plan. “Each barn is different,” Kate said. “If the roof is too weathered and you can see through it, we will take all we can off of the side walls, cut the bearing corners and beams with a chainsaw and pull it down with a truck or tractor. But if you want to salvage each roof plank, they are taken off one by one with a hammer and crowbar to keep them in good condition.”
They find barns in different ways too. “Sometimes we see one that we’ve driven by for years and stop to find out who owns it. Or people know that we use barnwood and contact us to take it down for them. We also check classifieds on KSL.com, which is kind of like Craigslist in our area,” she said. “We’ve had some exposure in magazines and the internet where people have seen our work and contacted us from all over the US to come and tear down their barns.” They take into consideration the distance, time, the structure’s condition and how much they want for the wood or if they are offering the wood for free (which is a common arrangement in exchange for the tear-down). “I’d be lying if I said we say ‘no’ to free wood very often if it’s in close proximity though. It may be an addiction of some sort!”
Because the majority of what R.A.W. Restorations creates is art pieces, they are usually able to salvage most of a barn. “Sometimes the scraps aren’t worth the work in loading, cleaning and prepping,” Kate said. “But that’s what’s cool about the job too. We are recycling the wood and clinging to the heritage of those old barns — using all we can with not too much waste.”
Barnwood is loaded with character, and no two pieces are alike. “After it’s torn down, each piece is brushed, cleaned, de-nailed, sanded and cut down to size. And that’s before we start whatever project we are working on,” Kate said.
Back at the shop, Kelley heads up the bigger structural projects like tables, remodeling and barn doors. Kate does the majority of the art pieces, working with clients to create the perfect design for their space, as well as doing all of the “business end of the company” like social media, responding to clients, and shipping orders. When they go to tear a barn down, they often grab a few extra hands. “We usually bring mom and sometimes my little brother and his muscles along with us.”
Photo credit (above): Nico Nolan
As she begins a new project, Kate finds herself inspired by nature, being in the outdoors or oceans, and by different styles in the interior design world. “Most of my pieces are very versatile and can blend in with a rustic, industrial or modern look,” she said. “I love working with designers and tweaking a piece with inlaid metals or monochromatic colors to create a more clean, sleek look, unexpected in a barnwood medium.”
Once a design is mapped out — whether it’s mountain, southwest, ocean or whatever the client dreams up — she will go through the wood piles and hand select specific pieces to fit the requested look. “I spend a lot of time personally designing each piece with every client from the placement of the mountains, colors or patterns to the textures of wood they want to complement the space they’re working with.”
Kate’s go-to tools in the shop are her miter saw, table saw and nail gun. “I use them all day every day!” Remodeling an Airstream and making some 12' x 15' barn doors with a flag design are two of their most unique and favorite projects so far.
Southwestern piece for a client coming together
Kate: “I never get tired of building mountain pieces.”
Kate takes joy in spending every day with her dad. “I’m so lucky to have such a patient, kind, knowledgeable father that has been willing to take the time to teach me everything I know about woodworking. He’s ‘retired’ from laying brick but not the kind to sit still, so I get to take up the majority of his time now with our business. Memories and knowledge are priceless.”
What would Kelley say about working with his daughter every day? “I think my dad would say the best thing is just the time we get to spend together. We work HARD, but have a great time doing it. Never a shortage of laughing or making fun of each other,” Kate said.
Being able to give these old barns and wood a second chance at life, carrying on the history and heritage of the barn is extremely important to how the Jensens run their business. But building memories together as a family is the icing on the cake. “My dad is hands-down the hardest working man I know,” Kate said. “If I can design it, he can build it. It’s the perfect partnership.”
Photo credit (above): Sami J Photography
More of R.A.W. Restorations’ Work
This custom barn door console table looks perfect in the client's home
Kate’s grandpa (his truck shown) inspired her “make use of everything” philosophy.
Photo credit: Sami J Photography
Kate with one of her first large pieces
Photo credit: Sami J Photography
Custom barnwood bench in entryway
Reclaimed wall panel in living room
Large piece for mantel finds a perfect home
This barnwood wall combined with sleek modern furniture brings all the tones together
Natural barnwood floors and walls make this remodeled Airstream warm and cozy
Custom sliding barn door makes a statement closing off a home office
Interested in upcycling wood into projects for your home? Stop by your local Woodcraft store or browse online and let us help you with all of the tools, supplies and inspiration you need.
We hope you’ll be inspired!
Photo credit (above): Nico Nolan
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